The Cat and the Gods (or, one more distorted Aesop)

Gods were arguing over whether a living thing could change its nature. Zeus said it was impossible, and the gods agreed this was so; but once Zeus had retired, Aphrodite said she believed improvement, or impoverishment, was possible. As Hermes kept up Zeus’s position, they set up an experiment.

They found a cat in Aeolia, and turned her into a young woman of great beauty and intelligence, and of amnesiac origin, probably due to pirates (she thought) — a fisherman found her on the shore, wet and half-dead and miserable as a drowned cat, and fell in love with her. In a week, their wedding-feast was held.

Now, as Aphrodite watched from the window and Hermes from the crack of the door, a mouse was let into the hall. The couple was behind a long table, smiling, raising their cups; the fisherman’s relations and the local people filled the hall with joyous noise and discordant singing.

Into this, the mouse scurried, from table-leg to table-leg; and the girl’s head turned without her willing it; and a yowl escaped her throat unwilled, in a barely human sound. The hall fell silent; the bride stood up, trembling, stiff, all senses on the mouse — and then she leapt over the table, eyes burning, skirt flaring, and dove on all fours at the gray beast, teeth bare.

The crowd scurried back in confusion and horror as she chased the mouse, palms and knees slipping on the floor, and as a fist came down on the mouse and white teeth tore it apart, splattering a gown with red blood and gray fur.

“Nature wills out”, Hermes said with a laugh, and the two gods departed while behind them the hall exploded with screams of disgust and outrage.

The marriage failed there and then; the fisherman went to the sea and did not return; the bride ran to the hills, and was not seen again; and the locals did not speak of the event, except in hushed voices when no outsider was there to hear.

But it was said that when the moon was full and the sea calm, one could hear a peculiar sound from the hills, as if a cat was crying — which is nonsense for it is not in the nature of cats to cry.

One Response to “The Cat and the Gods (or, one more distorted Aesop)”

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